Underwater Artistry: Mermaid Shows at the Wreck Bar – Fort Lauderdale, FL

B Ocean Resort (formerly Yankee Clipper)

We have all been led to believe that mermaids are just mythical creatures, but you may be convinced otherwise with a weekend visit to the Wreck Bar at B Ocean Resort (formerly Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel). It originally opened in the 1950s as the Yankee Clipper, hence the ship-shaped architecture.

The Wreck Bar, one of the few porthole lounges left in America

The Wreck Bar, which was built to look like a sunken Spanish galleon, is one of the few porthole lounges left in America. Behind the bar are windows that display an underwater view of the hotel’s pool. In the past decade, the property has undergone changes in ownership and multi-million-dollar renovations, but the Wreck Bar has managed to stay relatively intact.

A full house for the mermaid show at The Wreck Bar

The space is small — and the mermaids quite popular — so you better get there early. When we visited a few years ago, we arrived 45 minutes early and the room was already half full, with all extra available space filled in with white folding chairs. (There were lots of families in the crowd, and it is a bit strange to see a bunch of kids in a bar.)

The Wreck Bar in Fort Lauderdale

We were initially tempted by the banquettes and tables along the back wall of aquariums. Instead, we snagged a few of the bar stools for front-row views of the show. That’s definitely the way to go unless you have a larger group. (Also, you can admire the wooden bar rail with all the carvings inscribed by patrons over the years. Legend has it that Joe DiMaggio etched his and Marilyn Monroe’s initials, and the owner of the hotel removed that chunk as a souvenir.)

Stained glass mermaid at The Wreck Bar

There’s a lovely stained glass mermaid mural, plus neat little details like gold doubloon-type coins inlaid in the tables. Looking up, you’ll notice jagged cut-outs in the wood plank ceiling to reinforce the shipwreck setting.

The Wreck Bar in Analyze This

The Wreck Bar has been featured on the silver screen in the 1960 spring break flick “Where the Boys Are,” and more recently in “Analyze This” (1999). A plaque on the wall commemorates the scene with Robert DeNiro and Billy Crystal.

Mai Tide poster by Tom Thordarson

You may also spot a poster of “Mai Tide,” a painting by Tom Thordarson (aka Thor) featuring the queen bee of the deep blue sea: Marina the Fire-Eating Mermaid (aka MeduSirena). (She’s been a muse for many artists and even inspired a comic book character.)

Black Pearl at The Wreck Bar

While you wait for the show to start, you can take the opportunity to order some grog and/or grub. (Pictured is the “Black Pearl,” which used to be a signature drink. You should probably save your serious imbibing for the nearby Mai-Kai, my favorite tiki bar in the world.) The revamped food menu ranges from avocado hummus, sweet soy ginger wings and corn, lobster and crab cakes to chimichurri rib-eye, mahi mahi and jerk guava bbq chicken.

Marina the Fire-Eating Mermaid

Marina is a famous finned figure on the tiki scene. The Wreck Bar hadn’t regularly hosted mermaid shows since 1962, but she revived this wonderful retro entertainment here and it’s been a success for nearly a decade. She’s also appeared at events like Tiki Oasis in San Diego, Tiki Kon in Portland and The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale. (And if you’re ever in Macau, you can see her digitally projected at the City of Dreams’ Vquarium.) I’d caught her performance at Vintage Roadside’s mermaid event at Modernism Week in Palm Springs, but there’s nothing like seeing her in her natural habitat.

Mermaid show at the Wreck Bar

She and the “Aquaticats” she’s trained put on a mesmerizing show, demonstrating such control of movement underwater in their graceful gliding and flips, all the while interacting with the audience via mysterious gazes and flirtatious looks. After the show, guests can go upstairs to the pool level and pose for photos with them.

Mermaids in Fort Lauderdale

Around Halloween, the Creature from the Black Lagoon has been known to crash the pool party, while Christmas might feature a siren in a Santa suit. There are also special themed shows scheduled during The Hukilau (June 8-12).

Side of the Wreck Bar

The Wreck Bar opens at 5:30 p.m. and MeduSirena’s 30-minute swimshow takes place at 6:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Parking is available for $10 in a garage across the street. (Then, access the hotel via the covered walkway on the fourth level, take the second set of elevators down to the lobby and head left to the Wreck Bar.)

Want to know where else you can find cocktails and fishtails? Travel + Leisure recently published an article on the “10 Places for Mermaid Spotting in America.”

UPDATE! Some recent news from The Wreck Bar: “The Wreck Bar will soon be nearly twice its size, with two additional portholes restored. The cocktail & food menu is now better than ever! (No more plastic cups!) Bartender Mark is “Raising the Bar!” We are also looking into later night shows for 21+ only.”

The Wreck Bar
B Ocean Resort
1140 Seabreeze Blvd.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316


Modernism Week – Mid-Century Mermaids: A History

IMG_6900This was the first year I had the pleasure of attending Palm Springs Modernism Week, a series of events celebrating the architecture and culture of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. There were dozens of home tours, lectures, films and cocktail parties from February 16-26. Curiouslaydee and I were there for the closing weekend and some fun in the sun at The Riviera, but first we headed down Palm Canyon Drive to the Ace Hotel on Friday night.

IMG_6894The Vintage Roadside duo of Jeff Kunkle and Kelly Burg traveled down from Portland to share several years of research and interviews in a special sold-out presentation entitled “Mid-Century Mermaids: A History.”

IMG_6837They gave an overview of aquatic shows, from the 1939 New York World’s Fair and Billy Rose’s Aquacade (where Esther Williams was discovered) to mid-century mermaid attractions (like Weeki Wachee Springs, pictured) and porthole lounges (hotel bars with windows into the resort’s pool) to newer ventures like Sacramento’s Dive Bar and the aquarium at the Silverton Casino Hotel in Las Vegas.

IMG_6844The pictures were fascinating and there were many interesting stories to go with them. A Shell gas station sign was apparently used to make a mold for these giant shells at Aquarama, a now defunct tourist spot in Missouri. (There was also mention of a topless Star Wars themed show at the Reef in San Diego!)

IMG_6847Up front they had two tables displaying mermaid memorabilia, like this blue costume from Sip ‘n Dip in Montana (possible setting for a future reality show), a guitar from Weeki Wachee Springs (still in operation!), vintage bathing suits and a gold tail from Aquarama.

IMG_6854Following the presentation, the crowd surrounded the pool adjacent to the conference room for a special underwater and pyrotechnic performance by Marina the Fire-Eating Mermaid.

IMG_6868Marina and her MeduSirena Pod of fellow fish-tailed entertainers have a standing swimshow engagement every Friday night at the Wreck Bar in Fort Lauderdale, and she also performs at special events like Tiki Oasis where she’s even held classes on underwater movement for aspiring mermaids.

IMG_6889_2Marina was stunning, of course, but what really blew me away at this event was discovering how many mermaid attractions there were/are across the country. My favorite example was the porthole lounge, but Marina told me there are only three remaining in the U.S. They may be more nautical in style, not really “tiki” per se, but they seem to have that same sense of South Seas escapism that we love about tiki bars.